- Lewis Waring
Manitoba Leads Way with Canadian Centre for Child Protection- Shawn Eisler
It is no secret that, as technology has advanced, so too have the issues it has created for the law. Perhaps no concern has been greater than the recent influx of non-consensual distribution of intimate images, often known as revenge porn. Although common in every age group, young people in particular are increasingly sharing intimate images consensually that may later resurface and become shared non-consensually. Recent Canada-wide studies have shown that 30% of youth aged 16-20 have shared an intimate image of somebody with others, and this number is likely to continue to rise. These numbers are extremely concerning as the consequences of non-consensual distribution of intimate images can be severe. Victims of this crime can experience extreme depression, embarrassment, shame, harassment, and many more negative effects. Non-consensual distribution of intimate images has been made illegal by the Criminal Code (“the Code”), but this response is not entirely effective in limiting the practical effects of the crime. To combat this, Manitoba became the first province to respond with provincial legislation that considers some of the real-world outcomes that result. The Intimate Images Protection Act (“the IIPA”) was first introduced in 2015 and has now become law in Manitoba. While it creates an action in tort for victims, the IIPA goes further in providing real physical support for individuals hurt by the distribution of their intimate images, beyond just civil or criminal actions. In recognizing that non-consensual distribution of these images has prolonged real-world effects, the Manitoba response shows an understanding of what people may need practically and attempts to help mitigate the emotional and psychological damages that could occur.
Section 3(2) of The IIPA lists a range of supports such as helping individuals have their intimate images returned, destroyed, or removed from the internet or other places where they might be viewed. It states that individuals may also be assisted in dispute resolution with the people who may be in possession of an intimate image or have distributed such an image and that they will provide information regarding legal remedies and protections where applicable. To facilitate this assistance, section 4(1) of the IIPA goes further, allowing the government to designate outside agencies who may often be more experienced and have greater resources to receive requests for assistance and provide the supports previously highlighted under section 3(2). This is exactly what the Manitoba government has done. After passing this legislation, the government appointed an organization known as the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (“the C3P”) to help oversee this process. C3P is a Winnipeg-based national charity that, despite its name, provides help to people of all ages who have become victims of non-consensual distribution of their intimate images.
The C3P uses its already developed programs and resources to provide real world help to real world individuals. Its platform, “Cybertip.ca”, receives and addresses online and telephone reports from the public regarding a wide range of sex related crimes, most of which involve children. Its large base of experience and resources allows it to process an average of 10,000 reports per month. Upon the introduction of the IIPA, they have been able to effectively adapt their services to help protect more individuals. In the year of 2018, more than 1,300 Manitobans accessed C3P’s online resources to deal with problems caused by the distribution of intimate images non-consensually. Primarily, this help was related to removing images from social media and other locations and contacting the individuals who released the images. For an individual to receive help, they can go to the website and submit a report. The report form has a detailed list of questions that are all relevant to the criminal and provincial legislation so that the receiver is able to provide effective information based on the circumstances. At the bottom of the form is an opportunity to leave contact information so that, once submitted, a qualified and professional employee is able to reach out and provide guidance and support.
In designating C3P to this role and extending this option to the general public, the Manitoba government has done a good job in acknowledging that non-consensual distribution of intimate images is a problem which the traditional legal options do not go far enough to address. Legal action, either criminally or civilly, is extremely expensive as well as very time-consuming. Many individuals faced with this issue may not be able to absorb associated costs. Additionally, because the effects associated with the distribution of intimate images can have a severe psychological and emotional impact on the individual, it is important that victims get immediate help that a charge under the Code may not be able to provide. Cybertip.ca gives the public a no-cost and quick avenue to obtain the help that they need. Further, victims of this crime often struggle to come forward and often feel humiliated, shamed, and sometimes even partly responsible for what has occurred. The ability to file a report with Cybertip.ca with the option of remaining anonymous thus may allow more people to feel safe and come forward. This may draw more individuals to come forward than may have occurred through the traditional legal avenues described above.
While government often faces criticism of its ability to respond to emerging issues, this is clearly a step in the right direction that is to be commended. This is especially true in our home province, as the Manitoba government took the lead and was the first Canadian province to enact provincial legislation of this sort. Of course, more could always be done in order to promote greater understanding, awareness, and education in regard to these issues. However, having this law in place is positive in that it provides a trigger and a basis for individuals to receive proper, more realistic assistance and give people a course of action to follow. Simultaneously, it acts as something to point to in order to educate others about the potential consequences of sharing intimate images without consent as is becoming common and more normalized in the rapidly changing technological world.
The Intimate Image Protection Act, C.C.S.M. c.I87 s 11(1), (13).
Kubinec, Vera-Lynn. “More than 1,300 Manitobans seek help after intimate images shared”, CBC News (2018), online: https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/manitoba/revenge-porn- help-online-1.4637615.
Manitoba, Province Announces New Law in Force Helps Victims of Revenge Porn, Unwanted Distribution of Sexual Pictures, (Minister of Family Services and Consumer Affairs 2017).
“About Cybertip.ca”, (2021), online: <https://www.cybertip.ca/app/en/about>.
“New videos aim to stop teens from sharing other peoples’ intimate images without consent”, (2020), online: <https://mediasmarts.ca/press-centre/press-releases/new-videos-aim-stop-teens-sharing-other-peoples’-intimate-images-without-consent>.